Review: The Killings at Badger’s Drift by Caroline Graham

Format read: paperback checked out from the library
Formats available: paperback, hardcover
Genre: Mystery
Series: Chief Inspector Barnaby #1
Length: 252 pages
Publisher: Felony & Mayhem Press
Date Released: June 2005 (reprint edition)
Purchasing Info: Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Badger’s Drift is the ideal English village, complete with vicar, bumbling local doctor, and kindly spinster with a nice line in homemade cookies. But when the spinster dies suddenly, her best friend kicks up an unseemly fuss, loud enough to attract the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby. And when Barnaby and his eager-beaver deputy start poking around, they uncover a swamp of ugly scandals and long-suppressed resentments seething below the picture-postcard prettiness.

True confession, totally appropriate since this is a murder mystery. I picked up The Killings at Badger’s Drift because we’re watching Midsomer Murders. I’m enjoying the show so much that I wanted to read the original.

But that means it’s not quite fair to judge the mystery on how well the author kept me from figuring out “whodunnit” because I already knew perfectly well who did it. I’d just watched it!

And I still enjoyed every page of the story, even knowing how it was going to end. More or less. The show and the book are not quite the same.

The Chief Inspector Barnaby series are murder mysteries of the police procedural type. But the difference is the setting–a fictional English rural county with an unusually high homicide rate. The contrast between the peaceful setting and grisly murders always chills.

Badger’s Drift was the first book in the series, and the first program in the television series as well. The personalities of the two detectives is slightly different between the show and the book, but the relationship is similar. The senior partner directing the investigation and mentoring the junior. Barnaby makes intuitive leaps based on experience and knowledge of human nature, where Troy makes assumptions.

The series of crimes still chills, just as much in print as it did onscreen. A retired schoolteacher sees a couple having sex in the woods outside of the town of Badger’s Drift. That night, she dies, presumably of natural causes. After all, she was over 80.

But her friend believes otherwise, and convinces Barnaby to investigate. By opening his investigation, secrets are revealed, lives are ruined, and more people are murdered.

The truth comes out. Justice is served.

Escape Rating A: It’s been said that mystery fiction is about the romance of justice, and that’s what readers come back for. In a small village like Badger’s Drift, everyone knows everyone’s secrets, or so they think. A murder puts everyone’s deepest, darkest secrets on display, there is no privacy from a police inquiry.

Barnaby keeps digging. His thought processes are on display more in the book. People who do things that are out of character make him investigate. Two sudden deaths within the same group of people make him suspicious. He’s a good cop.

I’m glad I started reading the books. I’m just sorry there are so few of them. So I’m lucky there are so many episodes of the series on TV!

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3 thoughts on “Review: The Killings at Badger’s Drift by Caroline Graham

  1. I wonder if the “so few books” happens when they got picked up for tv? Have you seen the Murdock Mysteries? There are also more tv episodes than books. Very fun, btw. The tv series is…brighter? than the books. But I think she works on the shows now, instead of writing books. And who can blame her? She probably makes more money, etc.
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    1. Thanks for the rec on the Murdock Mysteries! We’ve been wondering about those. Galen and I both love cop shows, but we watch the whole run and then have to wait. And wait.
      I’m not sure how Midsomer is going to be without John Nettles, but I’m not there yet. And you’re right, the series is less jaundiced than the books. But I’ve noticed that the Barnaby’s have the only happy marriage in all of Midsomer!
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      1. Murdock Mysteries is really fun, IMHO. It’s kind of steampunk, with a steampunk vibe anyway. Cute hero, a female coroner (that’s not right term for it, but it’s not coming up for me) and set in Toronto. He’s kind of a Sherlock Holmes detective, but lots of interesting nuances in the cases that come up. Oh and fun side kick.
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